Putting your child on a school bus and sending them off to school without you is an act of faith. You are putting your trust in the experienced professionals who drive and maintain school buses. Expecting that they will do everything in their power to ensure the safety of their charges.
So when you hear stories about school bus crashes, like this one in early April that sent seven children and two adults to a local hospital for injuries, it can be especially terrifying.
Thankfully, all of those patients were released within two days and are recovering, but it raises a lot of questions. Why did the crash occur? Who’s responsible? What’s being done to prevent future crashes? Who pays the hospital bills?
Pressing Questions – and Answers – about the Sarasota Bus Crash
What led to the school bus crash?
Students from the Oak Park School were on their way home, driving in a right-hand lane. Another driver, 69-year-old Michael Rans, was driving in the opposite direction in a left turn lane.
Rans made an improper left turn and collided with the bus. All of the passengers on the bus had access to seatbelts, and reports say that all students were wearing them when the car hit the bus.
Did PIP pay for the kids’ medical bills?
There’s nothing specific mentioned about how the injuries will be covered, but under Florida law, PIP does cover children when they are riding in a school bus. Regardless of who caused the accident, kids injured in a school bus crash can receive up to $10,000 in benefits.
Of course, when the cost of injuries exceeds that amount, PIP stops being helpful. To receive compensation for those damages, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
Who is liable for the school bus accident?
In the example above, the situation seems pretty cut-and-dried: the other driver’s actions caused the accident. That means, if you need to file a lawsuit for damages, that driver is the one you would be going after. It’s very much like any typical passenger vehicle accident where one injured party sues the responsible driver.
Things would have been more complicated, however, if the bus or the bus driver caused the crash. Since the bus driver is a school employee and the bus is maintained by the school, most likely it would have meant that the parents had to deal with the school or school district when attempting to file a claim. If a defective part led to the accident, the manufacturer might even be able to be held accountable.
How does it work if the school or the bus driver acted in a negligent manner that led to the crash?
Above we mentioned that filing a lawsuit against a school is more complicated. Why? It comes down to a concept called sovereign immunity.
Basically, sovereign immunity means that government institutions can’t be sued except in very specific situations – and even when you are legally allowed to bring a lawsuit, you have to follow particular rules and procedures or the case can be thrown out.
Even if you handle all of the administrative portions of your lawsuit correctly, you’re still going to have a tough battle. Because schools have lot of resources to fight back, and you can be sure that they will do everything they can to get the suit dropped.
Bottom line? School injury lawsuits can be difficult to navigate. If you are fighting for compensation for medical bills, get in touch with a Florida personal injury lawyer.
About the Author:
Andrew Winston is a partner at the personal injury law firm of Winston Law. For over 20 years, he has successfully represented countless people in all kinds of personal injury cases, with a particular focus on child injury, legal malpractice, and premises liability. He has been recognized for excellence in the representation of injured clients by admission to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, is AV Preeminent Rated by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, enjoys a 10.0 rating by AVVO as a Top Personal Injury Attorney, has been selected as a Florida “SuperLawyer” from 2011-2017 – an honor reserved for the top 5% of lawyers in the state – and was voted to Florida Trend’s “Legal Elite” and as one of the Top 100 Lawyers in Florida and one of the Top 100 Lawyers in the Miami area for 2015, 2016, and 2017.